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Sydney T. Chapman - Major John Andre and No 22, The Circus, Bath 




Major Andre 
Self-portrait engraved by Hopwood 
for 'An Authentic Narrative Of The 
Causes Which Led to the Death of 
Major Andre' by Joshua Hett 
Smith, London, 1808 



In an earlier article l I recalled the life and work of the 
landscape artist John Taylor of Bath (1735-1806) who 
lived at 22 The Circus, and later in Duke Street. In 'Notes 
and Queries' for July 21, 1900, under the heading 'Major 
Andre's House at Bath'- though without any reference to 
Taylor - it was reported that a memorial tablet bearing the 
inscription "Here lived Major Andre A.D 1770" had been 
placed on No. 22, the writer reminding readers how the 'the 
brave young Major Andre', had been shot by order of 
George Washington at New York on a charge of spying for 
the British government. This new tribute to his memory 
was duly reported in the New York Times on September 
2 nd 1900. However, within six years the veracity of the 
statement was being questioned by J. F. Meehan in a short 
chapter' Major Andre and Bath' in his 'More Famous 
Houses of Bath and District'. There he declared that he 
was going to be 'quite frank' with his readers stating that 
'there is no evidence that Major Andre was ever in Bath' 
in spite of the fact that the 'mural tablet' had been placed 
over the entrance-door of the house stating that Andre had 
dwelt there in 1770. He knew that there was indeed an interesting family connection with the 
city and house in question through Andre's widowed mother and three spinster sisters who 
'took shelter from society' there from the later years of the eighteenth century, until 1845, nor 
did he rule out the possibility that John Andre had been in Bath before his family settled 
there 'almost with the sorrow of his death fresh upon them'. He thought it unjustifiable 
nevertheless to assert that Major Andre who on 2 nd October, 1780 'fell a sacrifice to his zeal 
for his king and country' had actually lived at No. 22. He felt there was 'a fair amount of 
Andre interest in Bath of an undoubted character' through this family connection without 
'wandering in the by-path of supposition'. The idea that Major Andre himself was connected 
with the Circus was probably of long standing and had been mentioned several years earlier, 
again without reference to Taylor, by R. E. M. Peach in his 'Historic Houses in Bath and their 
Associations' (1883-4). Peach, however, perhaps simply in error, placed the Andres at No. 23. 
What is remarkable in all this is that neither author troubled himself to find out who was in 
ownership or occupation of the house in the year 1770 when Andre is stated to have lived 
there, or why the year 1770 was significant. Moving on a few decades, R. W. M. Wright 
(Director of the Victoria Art Gallery) in his notes on Bath artists observed that the rate books 
show Taylor living at no 22, and, in passing, that those for 1789 showed Mrs. Andre residing 
at that property. Hers is but one of several names he mentions in attempting to establish 
Taylor's links with the house over time; he makes no mention of Major Andre and perhaps he 
had been persuaded by Meehan that the connection was unsubstantiated. My research on 
Taylor has now established precisely how the house came into the possession of the Andre 
family, and, earlier, of the artist himself. Documents in the city archives show, first of all, that 
the residence was bought on Christmas Eve 1766 from John Brabant and Mark Davis, 
cabinet-makers of Bath by John Taylor and his father Abraham (BC153/562/1); Abraham 
Taylor formerly Colonel of the Association Regiment in Philadelphia was a friend of 
Benjamin Franklin and co-founder with him of the Public Academy in that city and had 
returned to England after making his fortune. The papers also reveal that 22 years later, John 
Taylor 'only son and heir of Abraham Taylor of Bath, Esquire, deceased' and Rebecca his 
wife sold it by a lease and release dated 23-4 November, 1788 to Mary Hannah Andre, Ann 
Margaret Andre and Louisa Catherine Andre, "all of Bath, spinsters", for the sum of £1,850 
(BC153/562/4). John Taylor is now said to be 'of Grosvenor Place in the parish of Saint 
George, Hanover Square, Middlesex Esquire' confirming other literary and genealogical 



sources which speak of the artist as 'of the Circus, Bath and of Grosvenor Place, London'. 
Clearly Taylor did not sell the house for several years after the deplorable event of Major 
Andre's execution in 1780 but it is possible that the sale of the house to the Andre family was 
no coincidence. Perhaps they, John Andre included, had been no less keen than many other 
distinguished visitors, including Royalty, to view the rooms Taylor had opened to the public 
and which he had decorated with many examples of his paintings as well as interesting and 
fine objects. Most young men of his background (he was twenty years of age in 1770) and 
certainly any of an ambitious and adventurous disposition would have been intrigued by 
Taylor's connections with men of affairs and the arts. These included, as mentioned, 
Benjamin Franklin and fellow Americans Francis Hopkinson, signer of the American 
Declaration of Independence designer of its Great Seal and 'star-spangled banner' and the 
new nation's first composer, and Benjamin West latterly Court painter and President of the 
Royal Academy; of these we know from the Franklin papers that Hopkinson stayed at 22 the 
Circus for a fortnight as guest of the Taylor family in 1766. It should be remembered that 
Andre was himself possessed of considerable talent as an artist and produced accomplished 
portraits, silhouettes, and designed fancy dresses and scenery for masques and private 
theatricals as Mrs. F. Nevill Jackson has described ('Major Andre - Silhouettist' in The 
Connoisseur Magazine, 1926, pp209-218) and was, as we are about to see, also connected 
with the world of literature. Taylor's wider links with the arts, then, are also likely to have 
impressed the young Andre. 

The date on the plaque, 1770, suggested of course that John Andre's connection with No. 22, 

if true at all, was brief; it may have been just for the season, or for a shorter period. Yet it is 

understandable that Andre's posthumous fame would 

allow any interval, however short, to be deemed fit to be 

commemorated in this way. One has only to reflect on 

the plaques, fixed to buildings along his marching route, 

recording the stay of The Young Pretender for as little as 

one night. But a clue is possibly lurking elsewhere in 

Meehan's own book, for he would also recall (p.85), 

how, according to Richard Lovell Edgeworth, a native of m , ^ m „. ^ , 

^ ^ - a i - i i . ii i • .i The plaque at 22 The Circus, Bath 

Bath, the young Andre had travelled in the very year 

1770 to the west Midland town of Lichfield to see Miss Honora Sneyd. He had fallen very 

much in love with her, having probably been smitten by her charms the previous year when 

he met her there among the coterie of the poetess Anna Seward. It is not inconceivable, then, 

that on his journey thither or thence in that year Andre had detoured briefly to Bath and 

visited or stayed with the Taylor family. This is likely to have been recounted subsequently 

by one of the artist's family; perhaps Dr. Richard Taylor, one of the artist's sons, whose 

recollections of his father's life at Bath are likely to have extended beyond the few contained 

in the short obituary written by (as I can now demonstrate) his friend Charles Empson of Bath 

on his death in 1860. One of Andre's sisters, Hannah survived until her death at Taylor's 

former house, aged 93, in 1845 and she or another of the long lived sisters, or indeed his 

brother William who was created a Baronet and lived at Bath, may have perpetuated the story 

linking No. 22 with Major John Andre. It is one thing, however, to dismiss a story due to lack 

of evidence and another to dismiss it with a palpably false notion like that retrospectively 

justifying the removal of the plaque in the 1940's published in the Mayor's Guide to Bath. 

There, as Elizabeth Holland kindly pointed out to me, it was stated that Andre could have not 

stayed at No. 22 in 1770 since the premises were in an uninhabitable state. This is hardly 

possible for a house less than a decade old when Andre is said to have stayed there. There is 

no evidence of a disaster befalling the building around that or any time, though it experienced 

a near miss in the 'Baedeker raids' in WWII. But until evidence linking Major Andre with No 

22, The Circus, and particularly with the year 1770, comes to light the question of whether he 

visited or resided for a while at Taylor's will still remain unresolved. 

Note (1) The Survey of Bath and District no. 21, October 2006, pp 28-29 





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